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UKRAINE WRAP | Ukraine used Western arms to attack nuclear plant, says Russian-installed official

03 August 2022 - 06:10 By TimesLIVE
Children play with a statue of Russian President Vladimir Putin riding a tank created by French artist James Colomina in Central Park in Manhattan, New York City, US, on August 2 2022.
Children play with a statue of Russian President Vladimir Putin riding a tank created by French artist James Colomina in Central Park in Manhattan, New York City, US, on August 2 2022.
Image: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

August 03 2022 — 20:19

Exxon in talks with unnamed party for Sakhalin-1 transition - filing

U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil is in the process of transitioning Sakhalin-1 assets in Russia "to another party", according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Exxon did not name the other party in its filing.A senior Russian lawmaker said on July 8 that Moscow would take control of the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project in which ExxonMobil, Japan's SODECO and India's ONGC Videsh are partners. 


August 03 2022 — 18:14

Ukraine starts pullout of peacekeepers from Kosovo - report

Ukraine will start the pullout of its peacekeepers from the NATO-led mission in Kosovo, the RBK-Ukraine news portal reported on Wednesday citing sources from Ukraine's military command.

Ukraine currently maintains a contingent of 40 peacekeepers in Kosovo as part of the 3,800-strong NATO-led 'KFOR' mission, but in March President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a decree ordering all missions to return home to assist in the war with Russia.

"The return of the (Ukrainian) national contingent will mean the temporary termination of its participation in the KFOR mission," RBK-Ukraine quoted remarks from Ukraine's army command as saying.

It also said that the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Kosovo is in line with Zelenskiy's March 7 decree ordering missions to come home following Russia's invasion on Feb 24.KFOR officials in Kosovo could not be immediately reached for comment.

The NATO peacekeeping mission deployed to Kosovo in 1999 after alliance's 78-day bombing campaign forced Serbian troops to end their crackdown against Albanians in the now-independent Kosovo, formerly a southern province of Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and is recognised by over 100 countries, but not by others, including Ukraine, five European Union member countries, Russia and China.

The government in Belgrade, which remains opposed to Kosovo's independence, recognises Ukraine in its entirety and has three times condemned the Russian invasion in the UN.

But Serbia, which is almost completely dependant on Russian gas, also refuses to join sanctions against Moscow. 


August 03 2022 — 17:38

Ukraine says Russia creating strike force aimed at Zelenskyy's hometown

Ukraine said on Wednesday that Russia had started creating a military strike force aimed at President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's hometown of Kryvyi Rih and warned that Moscow could be preparing new offensive operations in southern Ukraine.

Russia holds swathes of Ukraine's south that it captured in the early phases of its Feb. 24 invasion, but Kyiv has said it will mount a counter-offensive. It said on Tuesday it had already recaptured 53 villages in occupied Kherson region. In its regular update on the war in the south, Ukraine's southern military command described the situation as tense and said Russia attacked along the frontline on August 2.

The steel-producing city of Kryvyi Rih where Zelenskyy grew up lies around 50km from the southern frontline. "[Russia] has begun creating a strike group in the Kryvyi Rih direction. It's also quite likely that the enemy is preparing a hostile counter-offensive with the subsequent plan of getting to the administrative boundary of Kherson region," the southern military command said.

Ukraine has been trying to ratchet up pressure on Russia's positions in the strategically important Black Sea region of Kherson and has used Western-supplied long-range weapons to conduct strikes on Russian supply lines and ammunition dumps.Ukraine's military said in a statement that Russian forces were scoping out basements in the region to turn them into bomb shelters to store military hardware.

Late on Tuesday, Zelenskyy described the fighting on parts of the eastern frontline in the heavily industrialised Donbas as "just hell" in his nightly address to the nation. Russia has not claimed any major territorial gains in its invasion since it claimed to have captured Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region around a month ago. But on Tuesday Ukraine's military command acknowledged that Russia had had "partial success" in the "Donetsk-Pisky direction" around the city of Donetsk that is held by Russia and Russian-backed separatists. 


August 03 2022 — 15:47

Russia's Avtovaz offers Izhevsk staff $3,000 to quit voluntarily

Russia's biggest carmaker Avtovaz, which suspended some production due to sanctions and lack of components, is offering workers at its Izhevsk plant a one-off payment of about $3,000 to take voluntary redundancy, it said on Wednesday.

Avtovaz resumed production of some of its popular Lada models at its main plant in Togliatti in June after partially halting output in the spring due to a shortage of electronic parts caused by sanctions. The company, whose long-time shareholder, French carmaker Renault, sold its stake to a Russian investor in May, was unable to relaunch production of the Lada Vesta model and sent 3,200 staff from its Izhevsk plant in central Russia on paid leave in March.

On Wednesday it asked staff at the site in Izhevsk, a town of around 645,000 people some 1,200km east of Moscow, either to find a new job within the company or to resign by the mutual agreement. Those who resign will be offered a one-off payment worth around five to seven times average monthly salary, or about 12 times the minimum wage, approved by the state. The maximum payout would equate to 183,348 roubles ($3,161).

"Avtovaz emphasizes that the company doesn't plan to carry out mass lay-offs, and the proposed supporting measures for the team are purely voluntary for each employee," the company said in a statement.

The Russian automotive industry, heavily reliant on components and equipment from abroad, has been hit by global semiconductor shortages and most recently an exodus of international manufacturers over the conflict in Ukraine. As many car assembly plants are located out of Moscow in smaller towns, Russian carmakers preferred not to cut jobs but rather keep staff on paid leave or reduced hours and smaller salaries as a result.


August 03 2022 — 15:45

Swiss adopt new EU sanctions on Russia, allow oil payments

The Swiss government imposed further sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, in line with the EU's latest measures on gold and gold products, the cabinet said.

The government said that it had made two new exceptions with respect to transactions related to agricultural products and oil supplies to third countries, which the EU has as well, in order to avoid any disruptions in payment channels.

"The new measures primarily concern a ban on buying, importing or transporting gold and gold products from Russia. Services in connection with these goods are also prohibited," a government statement said.

It said Switzerland was committed to tackling the global food and energy crisis, noting that none of the measures against Russia were directed against the trade in agricultural or food products between third countries and Russia. "To avoid disruption to payment channels, the Federal Council [cabinet] has made two new exceptions with respect to transactions related to agricultural products and oil supplies to third countries, as has the EU," it said.

Purchases of Russian seaborne crude oil by EU companies and its export to third countries are allowed, but under tweaks to EU sanctions on Russia that came into force last month, payments related to such shipments would not be banned.

The Swiss government noted that the largest Russian bank, Sberbank, has also had its assets frozen and is banned from providing funds, economic resources or technical services.

"New derogations are being introduced to ensure the orderly wind-down of transactions and the sale of Sberbank subsidiaries," it said.


August 03 2022 — 15:30

Russian-installed official says Ukraine used Western arms to attack nuclear plant

A Russian-installed official in Ukraine said on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces had repeatedly used Western arms to attack Europe's largest nuclear power plant which is now controlled by Russian forces.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Russian-installed administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was due to visit the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

The IAEA did not respond to a request for comment.

"We are ready to show how the Russian military is guarding the plant, and how Ukraine, which receives weapons from the West, uses those weapons including drones to attack the nuclear power plant," Balitsky said.

Reuters was unable to verify battlefield accounts from either side of the war.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which has two of six reactors operating, has been the subject of repeated warnings from Ukraine, the West and Russia. It was shelled on March 4.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken on Monday called Russia's actions around the plant "the height of irresponsibility", accusing Moscow of using it as a "nuclear shield" in attacks on Ukrainian forces. Washington was "deeply concerned" that Moscow was now using the plant as a military base and firing on Ukrainian forces from around it, Blinken told reporters after nuclear nonproliferation talks at the United Nations in New York.

"Of course the Ukrainians cannot fire back lest there be a terrible accident involving the nuclear plant," he said.

Russia's actions went beyond using a "human shield", Blinken said, calling it a "nuclear shield". 


August 03 2022 — 12:42

Russia says it destroyed weapons depot in Ukraine's Lviv region

Russia's defence ministry said on Wednesday its missiles had destroyed a depot containing weapons supplied by Poland in Ukraine's Lviv region.

Reuters was not able to immediately independently verify the battlefield account.

Polish foreign ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina said he did not have any information about the report and could not confirm it. 


August 03 2022 — 12:41

Kremlin: Tension over Pelosi's Taiwan visit 'should not be underestimated'

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the level of tension provoked by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan "should not be underestimated".

Responding to a question about whether the world was closer to war, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he was not in favour of using that word but reiterated that the visit was a "provocation".

He added that no additional contacts between President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping were planned in light of the visit.

Pelosi's arrival on Tuesday in Taiwan prompted a furious response from Beijing at a time when international tensions were already elevated by the conflict in Ukraine. 


August 03 2022 — 12:28

Russia's Putin told ex-German chancellor Schroeder Nord Stream 2 pipeline ready for use

Russian President Vladimir Putin told former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder during their meeting last week that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was ready to be used to help with supplies to Europe, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

Peskov said that Putin told Schroeder that Russian gas supplies have fallen to around 30-million cubic meters per day from 167-million cubic meters after Poland sanctioned the Yamal-Europe pipeline and Ukraine stopped flows via one of the routes. 


August 03 2022 — 12:22

Ukraine's Zelenskyy says first grain ship 'nothing', economy in coma

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed the importance of the first grain export shipment from his country since Russia invaded, saying it was carrying a fraction of the crop Kyiv must sell to help salvage its shattered economy.

His downbeat comments, via video to students in Australia on Wednesday, came as an inspection of the ship was completed in Turkey before it continues to its final destination in Lebanon under a deal aimed at easing a global food crisis.

The ship, Razoni, departed from Ukraine's Odesa port on the Black Sea early on Monday carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn to Lebanon's Tripoli. It followed a UN-brokered grain and fertiliser export agreement between Moscow and Kyiv last month — a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a drawn-out war of attrition.

But Zelenskyy, speaking via an interpreter, said more time was needed to see whether other grain shipments would follow.

“Just recently, thanks to the UN in partnership with Turkey, we had a first ship with the delivery of grain, but it’s still nothing. But we hope it’s a tendency that will continue,” he told the students.

He said Ukraine had to export a minimum 10-million tonnes of grain to urgently help bring down its budget deficit which was running at $5bn a month.

A senior Turkish official said three ships could leave Ukrainian ports daily after the Razoni's departure, while Ukraine's infrastructure minister said 17 more ships had been loaded with agricultural produce and were waiting to set sail.

Known as Europe's breadbasket, Ukraine hopes to export 20-million tonnes of grain held in silos and 40-million tonnes from the harvest now under way, initially from Odesa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk.

“The war...is almost killing the economy. It's in a coma,” Zelenskyy added. “Russia's blocking of the ports is a great loss for the economy.

Zelenskyy has repeatedly warned that Moscow may try to obstruct exports despite signing up to last month's deal.

Russia, which blockaded Ukraine's ports after beginning on February 24 what it called “a special military operation”, has said it wants to see more done to facilitate the exports of its own grain and fertilisers.

But it has hailed the departure of the first grain ship from Ukraine as positive.

It has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying sanctions by the West, which regards the war as an unprovoked imperial-style Russian land grab, have slowed its exports.

The exports from Ukraine, one of the world's top grain producers, are intended to ease price rises and shortages, with famine looming in some parts of the world.

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the grain deal might offer a way forward out of conflict.

“The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schroeder told Stern weekly and broadcasters RTL/ntv on Wednesday, adding he had met Putin in Moscow last week.”

A first success is the grain deal, perhaps that can be slowly expanded to a ceasefire.

“Ukraine's General Staff on Wednesday catalogued continued heavy Russian shelling of Kharkiv and other towns and villages in its vicinity, as well as air and missile strikes on civilian objects. Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians, something which it accuses Kyiv of doing.

Russia's defence ministry said its missiles had destroyed a depot containing weapons supplied by Poland in Ukraine's Lviv region.

Reuters was not able to verify battlefield reports.

Zelenskyy, in a late night address on Tuesday, said that his forces could not yet overcome Russian advantages in heavy guns and manpower despite arms supplies from the West.

“This is very much felt in combat, especially in the Donbas ... It is just hell there. Words cannot describe it,” he said.

Russia is battling to take full control of Donbas, the heavily industrialised part of eastern Ukraine.

It said on Tuesday at the UN that the conflict did not warrant Moscow's use of nuclear weapons, but that it could decide to use its nuclear arsenal in response to “direct aggression” by countries of the Nato military alliance.


August 03 2022 — 11:17

Russia lifts house arrest of Mau, but orders him not to travel

Russia has lifted the house arrest of leading economist Vladimir Mau but demanded he give an assurance that he will not leave the country, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday citing sources.

Mau, an economic liberal and rector at a top school for civil servants in Moscow, was charged with fraud and put under house arrest in June.

“The preventive measure of house arrest was cancelled by the investigator and a more lenient one was chosen — a pledge not to travel and to behave properly,” a source told Interfax news agency.

The case shocked Russia's academic and economic elite, as Mau has close links to top policymakers and signed an open letter in support of Russia's “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Opposition figures criticised the case as an attempt by the Kremlin to exert control over Russia's education sphere and quash academic freedoms. 


August 03 2022 — 11:00

Romanian Black Sea port to keep shipping Ukrainian grain, seeks EU funding

At the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta dockers have worked for months to ship out Ukrainian grain in addition to their usual loads from Romania and its landlocked neighbours. Shipments arrive constantly. The grain, which is poured onto conveyor belts in Constanta terminals, makes the air smell sweet and covers workers seeking shade under the steel silos in a fine layer of golden dust.

The export route is one of the few left open to Ukraine, which before the conflict with Russia was one of the world's top grain suppliers. Exporters have shipped 1.46 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain through Constanta since Russia invaded the country in February and the war halted shipments from Ukraine's own Black Sea ports.

The first grain-carrying ship to leave the Ukrainian port of Odesa since the war began under a safe passage agreement sailed on Monday. Operators in Romania expect they will continue to ship Ukrainian grain as it will take time to fully implement that deal. The grain arrives by road, rail or barge from Ukraine's Danube river ports of Reni and Izmail.

The safe passage deal has been seen as a glimmer of hope in a worsening global food crisis. Turkey, which brokered the deal together with the United Nations, expects roughly one grain ship to leave Ukrainian ports each day as long as the agreement holds.

Romanian port operator Comvex said it will fill two ships later this week — one carrying 30,500 tonnes of Ukrainian and Romanian corn headed to Libya and the second 45,000 tonnes of Ukrainian corn to Iran.

“It all depends on how the Istanbul agreement works out and on the quantities that Ukrainian ports can ship out,” Comvex manager Viorel Panait told Reuters. “With all our hearts we wish they can restore their chain flows. But we are here, ready to help. Comvex has invested 4-million euros ($4.09m) in a second barge offloading platform which became operational at the end of July, and boosted its total processing capacity to 84,000 tonnes in and 70,000 tonnes out per day.

Last year, Constanta's port shipped a record high 25.2-million tonnes of grain from Romania and landlocked neighbours Serbia, Hungary, Moldova and Austria. Known as Europe's breadbasket, Ukraine hopes to export 20-million tonnes of grain held in silos and 40-million tonnes from the harvest now under way, initially from Odesa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk, to help make way for the new crop.

As of end-June, Comvex had handled roughly 70% of Ukrainian grains and other goods to come through Constanta, including almost 800,000 tonnes of iron ore. It plans to invest 60-million euros this year and next to boost operations, Panait said.

Transport from Ukraine has been hampered by rail infrastructure problems and low water levels on the Danube after weeks of high temperatures and drought, meaning barges cannot carry full loads. Port authorities said 183,581 tonnes of grains were currently en route to Constanta, which will also continue to export other Ukrainian goods not covered by the safe passage agreement, including steel products, iron ore and pipes.

The Constanta Port Business Association, which Panait also runs, said the ten port operators who handle Ukrainian goods in addition to their regular customers will need 340-million euros worth of investment in equipment to boost processing speed. They have asked for EU funds and government loan guarantees.

In July, the Romanian government told Reuters it was mulling a pilot programme to acquire equipment “to increase operating speed in grain terminals.” It is also working on rehabilitating 35 port rail lines and removing hundreds of rusty wagons blocking the tracks. 


August 03 2022 — 10:19

Russia-EU gas flows via Nord Stream, Ukraine remain steady

Russian gas flows to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline and via Ukraine remained steady on Wednesday, operator data showed.

Physical flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany were at 14,413,152 kilowatt hours an hour (kWh/h) for 0800-0900 CET, a similar level to the previous 24 hours.

Russia cut flows on the pipeline to just 20% of its capacity on July 27 citing maintenance work.

Nominations for Russian gas flows into Slovakia from Ukraine via the Velke Kapusany border point were at around 36.7-million cubic metres (mcm) per day, compared with 36.8 mcm the previous day, data from the Ukrainian system operator showed.

Eastbound gas flows via the Yamal-Europe pipeline to Poland from Germany were little changed from the previous day, data from operator Gascade showed.

Exit flows at the Mallnow metering point on the German border stood at 2,283,879 kWh/h on Wednesday morning at 0800-0900 CET.


August 03 2022 — 09:22

Russia's Lavrov: Pelosi visit to Taiwan creates 'annoyance'

Russian foreign minister Lavrov said on Wednesday that a visit to Taiwan by US house of representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi was a deliberate attempt by Washington to irritate China.

Speaking on a visit to Myanmar, Lavrov criticised the US and said it was acting with impunity.

“I see no other reason to create such an annoyance almost out of the blue, knowing very well what it means for the People's Republic of China,” Lavrov said.

Pelosi's arrival on Tuesday in Taiwan prompted a furious response from Beijing at a time when international tensions are already elevated by the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia has come out in support of China, with whom it has forged a strong partnership in recent years, and has warned Washington that Pelosi's visit puts it on a collision course with Beijing.

Moscow and Beijing both adhere to the 'One China' principle, recognising Taiwan as part of China and opposing independence for the island. 


August 03 2022 — 07:39

Russia accuses US of direct Ukraine war role in missile attacks

Russia has accused the US of direct involvement in the Ukraine war, while the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since Moscow's invasion is due to be inspected in Turkey on Wednesday.

Russia's defence ministry, headed by an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said comments made by Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine's deputy head of military intelligence, to Britain's Telegraph newspaper showed Washington was entangled in the conflict despite assertions it was limiting its role to arms supplies.

August 03 2022 — 06:00

German ex-chancellor Schroeder says Russia wants negotiated solution to Ukraine war

Russia wants a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine and last month's agreement on grain shipments might offer a way forward, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

“The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schroeder told Stern weekly and broadcasters RTL/ntv, adding he had met Putin in Moscow last week.

“A first success is the grain deal, perhaps that can be slowly expanded to a ceasefire,” he said.

Russia and Ukraine struck a deal last month to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports and the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since Moscow's invasion five months ago is on its way to Lebanon.

Schroeder said solutions to crucial problems such as Crimea could be found over time, “maybe not over 99 years, like Hong Kong, but in the next generation”. He said an alternative to Nato membership for Ukraine might be armed neutrality, like Austria.

The future of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the scene of fierce fighting, however, was more complicated. “A solution based on the Swiss cantonal model will have to be found,” he said, adding it would have to be seen if Putin would go back to a pre-war “contact line” in a ceasefire.

Schroeder, chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has criticised the war in Ukraine but refused to condemn Putin, whom he still calls a close personal friend. Distancing himself from Putin now would not help the situation, he said.

Increasingly derided in Germany for his pro-Russia stance, Schroeder has been stripped of his right to a publicly funded office.

A champion of the Nord Stream pipeline which carries Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, Schroeder is chairman of the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream AG, operator of the pipeline majority-owned by Russia's Gazprom, according to LinkedIn.

After intense criticism, Schroeder in May stood down from the board of Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft and declined a nomination for a board position at Gazprom. 



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